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sister of the sun.

From The Brown Fairy book by Andrew Lang.
Age Rating 8 Plus.

Start of Story

A long time ago there lived a young prince whose favourite playfellow was the son of the gardener who lived in the grounds of the palace. The king would have preferred his choosing a friend from the pages who were brought up at court; but the prince would have nothing to say to them, and as he was a spoilt child, and allowed his way in all things, and the gardener's boy was quiet and well-behaved, he was suffered to be in the palace, morning, noon, and night. The game the children loved the best was a match at archery, for the king had given them two bows exactly alike, and they would spend whole days in trying to see which could shoot the highest. This is always very dangerous, and it was a great wonder they did not put their eyes out; but somehow or other they managed to escape. One morning, when the prince had done his lessons, he ran out to call his friend, and they both hurried off to the lawn which was their usual playground. They took their bows out of the little hut where their toys were kept, and began to see which could shoot the highest. At last they happened to let fly their arrows both together, and when they fell to earth again the tail feather of a golden hen was found sticking in one. Now the question began to arise whose was the lucky arrow, for they were both alike, and look as closely as you would you could see no difference between them. The prince declared that the arrow was his, and the gardener's boy was quite sure it was HIS--and on this occasion he was perfectly right; but, as they could not decide the matter, they went straight to the king. When the king had heard the story, he decided that the feather belonged to his son; but the other boy would not listen to this and claimed the feather for himself. At length the king's patience gave way, and he said angrily:



'Very well; if you are so sure that the feather is yours, yours it shall be; only you will have to seek till you find a golden hen with a feather missing from her tail. And if you fail to find her your head will be the forfeit.' The boy had need of all his courage to listen silently to the king's words. He had no idea where the golden hen might be, or even, if he discovered that, how he was to get to her. But there was nothing for it but to do the king's bidding, and he felt that the sooner he left the palace the better. So he went home and put some food into a bag, and then set forth, hoping that some accident might show him which path to take. After walking for several hours he met a fox, who seemed inclined to be friendly, and the boy was so glad to have anyone to talk to that he sat down and entered into conversation. 'Where are you going?' asked the fox. 'I have got to find a golden hen who has lost a feather out of her tail,' answered the boy; 'but I don't know where she lives or how I shall catch her!' 'Oh, I can show you the way!' said the fox, who was really very good-natured. 'Far towards the east, in that direction, lives a beautiful maiden who is called "The Sister of the Sun." She has three golden hens in her house. Perhaps the feather belongs to one of them.' The boy was delighted at this news, and they walked on all day together, the fox in front, and the boy behind. When evening came they lay down to sleep, and put the knapsack under their heads for a pillow. Suddenly, about midnight, the fox gave a low whine, and drew nearer to his bedfellow. 'Cousin,' he whispered very low, 'there is someone coming who will take the knapsack away from me. Look over there!' And the boy, peeping through the bushes, saw a man.



'Oh, I don't think he will rob us!' said the boy; and when the man drew near, he told them his story, which so much interested the stranger that he asked leave to travel with them, as he might be of some use. So when the sun rose they set out again, the fox in front as before, the man and boy following. After some hours they reached the castle of the Sister of the Sun, who kept the golden hens among her treasures. They halted before the gate and took counsel as to which of them should go in and see the lady herself. 'I think it would be best for me to enter and steal the hens,' said the fox; but this did not please the boy at all. 'No, it is my business, so it is right that I should go,' answered he. 'You will find it a very difficult matter to get hold of the hens,' replied the fox. 'Oh, nothing is likely to happen to me,' returned the boy. 'Well, go then,' said the fox, 'but be careful not to make any mistake. Steal only the hen which has the feather missing from her tail, and leave the others alone.' The man listened, but did not interfere, and the boy entered the court of the palace. He soon spied the three hens strutting proudly about, though they were really anxiously wondering if there were not some grains lying on the ground that they might be glad to eat. And as the last one passed by him, he saw she had one feather missing from her tail.



At this sight the youth darted forward and seized the hen by the neck so that she could not struggle. Then, tucking her comfortably under his arm, he made straight for the gate. Unluckily, just as he was about to go through it he looked back and caught a glimpse of wonderful splendours from an open door of the palace. 'After all, there is no hurry,' he said to himself; 'I may as well see something now I AM here,' and turned back, forgetting all about the hen, which escaped from under his arm, and ran to join her sisters. He was so much fascinated by the sight of all the beautiful things which peeped through the door that he scarcely noticed that he had lost the prize he had won; and he did not remember there was such a thing as a hen in the world when he beheld the Sister of the Sun sleeping on a bed before him. For some time he stood staring; then he came to himself with a start, and feeling that he had no business there, softly stole away, and was fortunate enough to recapture the hen, which he took with him to the gate. On the threshold he stopped again. 'Why should I not look at the Sister of the Sun?' he thought to himself; 'she is asleep, and will never know.' And he turned back for the second time and entered the chamber, while the hen wriggled herself free as before. When he had gazed his fill he went out into the courtyard and picked up his hen who was seeking for corn. As he drew near the gate he paused. 'Why did I not give her a kiss?' he said to himself; 'I shall never kiss any woman so beautiful.' And he wrung his hands with regret, so that the hen fell to the ground and ran away.

       



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